Updated April 2014, next review April 2017

Looking after yourself while your premature baby is in hospital

If your premature baby dies

Most premature babies go on to lead healthy lives, but unfortunately a very small proportion of them do not survive.

Every parent responds in their own way to the loss of their baby and your grief may include shock, guilt, sadness, anger and despair. As well as coping with these profound emotions, you will need to manage a number of practical things, such as telling your family, registering the death, deciding whether to agree to a post-mortem, and thinking about whether to have a funeral or other ceremony for your baby.

What happens when a baby dies

Hospitals have procedures to follow when a baby dies, and you may find these a source of comfort at this devastating time. They may give you the chance to hold your baby and offer to take photographs. Some families feel that this can keep their baby’s memory alive, and find it helpful to include pictures of the baby with other family photos and talk about them often.

Who can help if you are bereaved

Support is available in many different forms, including publications, online message boards, volunteer befriending services, telephone support lines (including the Tommy's freephone line: 0800 0147 800) and local support groups. You can use whichever elements you feel most comfortable with, alongside support from your healthcare team.

Grieving in your own way

You will also get support from your loved ones, and this may be all that you need. Sometimes difficulties can arise when different people experience the loss in different ways. You may feel particularly close to the baby if you have carried her for months, even if you saw her for only a few hours. Others may feel less of a connection with the baby, or may feel unable to express their own grief if they feel their primary role is to be strong and support you.

Read more about the grieving process here

Sharing experiences for support

Meanwhile, friends and family who are unsure of how to handle this situation may unintentionally make comments that can seem inappropriate or insensitive. For that reason, many women find it helpful to seek outside support too – and in particular to go to a local group, where they can meet others who have been through a similar experience. Even many years after the baby died, some women continue to use these groups (such as those run by the Stillbirth & Neonatal Death Charity, Sands) as a place where they can remember their little one.

Remembering your baby

Be aware that certain dates, such as your due date, or your baby’s birthday, may be particularly difficult for you and for your family and may take on huge significance in the future.

Read more about remembering your baby here.

In memory pages

If you would like to set up an In memory page for your baby, you can click here. It enables you to raise money for research into premature birth, which aims to prevent other families going through your experience.


In this section


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The following organisations can give you more information about the topics covered in this section.

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On this page

What happens when a baby dies

Who can help if you are bereaved

Grieving in your own way

Sharing experiences for support

Remembering your baby

In memory pages



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Feedback on health information

‘On the day he died, the hospital encouraged me to have photographs taken. At the time I was totally against the idea, but they said: “You may want them later, or you can give them to somebody else.” So they dressed him and put him in this basket, and we held him. It was very sensitively handled. Much later, I was so glad we’d done it.’

DEBBIE

‘I think about him every day. Now I have another three kids, aged 3, 7 and 10, and they talk about him too. He’s very much part of our family.’

JESSICA

TIP

For bereavement counselling, contact the Tommy’s PregnancyLine on 0800 0147 800. For more bereavement information, you can order the free Tommy’s guide, When a baby dies.